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The Real Reason Why Hollywood’s Biggest Movies Choose to Omit Sexual Content

Photo by Patrick Tomasso via Unsplash

The Real Reason Why Hollywood’s Biggest Movies Choose to Omit Sexual Content

By Movieguide® Staff

Journalist Christina Newland recently published a BBC article called “Why Hollywood is shunning sex.”

Newland points out that Hollywood has increasingly removed sexually explicit content from its tentpole movies.

The article cites data from a 2019 study by Kate Hagen, which found that Hollywood’s mainstream movies include fewer sex scenes than at any point in the industry over the past 50 years.

“Only 1.21% of the 148,012 feature-length films released since 2010 [according to the IMDB database] contain depictions of sex,” Hagen wrote. “That percentage is the lowest [of any decade] since the 1960s. Sex in cinema peaked in the 1990s, the heyday of the erotic thriller, with 1.79% of all films featuring sex scenes. That half-point decline is massive in relative terms, considering almost four times as many films have been released in the 2010s as in the 1990s.”

Newland wonders where the “softcore, porno-chic, [and] erotic thrillers” has gone in modern US theaters and offers several reasons for the decrease in sexual content in domestic Markets.

While Newland lands on a different conclusion, she confirms what Movieguide®’s Report to the Entertainment Industry has proved for the past 30 years: movies with more moral, Christian content do better at the box office.

“When blockbuster films are designed to be formulaic and inoffensive enough to appeal to a large audience, they tend to become pared down to action, plot, exposition, and violent CGI set pieces. In other words: efficiency. Violent action scenes can more obviously move the plot forward. But sex is not efficient. It’s not – strictly speaking – necessary. It’s messy, and risky, and there is arguably nothing today’s entertainment conglomerates want less than to risk alienating consumers,” Newland explains.

Newland writes:

In her piece Everyone is Beautiful and No One is Horny, writer Raquel S Benedict offers a particular theory about why this is, to do with the muscle-bound and gym-perfected Hollywood bodies we see in the superhero and action films, particularly those in the Marvel and DC universes, that now dominate the multiplexes.

Benedict points out that this desexualised aesthetic has gone hand in hand with a sea change around how much sex audiences actually expect in mainstream cinema. When we look at the 80s and 90s, she argues, even the films from that era we may recall as family-friendly have more sex in them, either literal or inferred, than the majority of today’s big-screen output. “Millennial and Gen Z viewers are often startled to encounter long-forgotten sexual content: John Connor’s conception in Terminator, Jamie Lee Curtis’s toplessness in Trading Places, the spectral blowjob in Ghostbusters,” she writes. “These scenes didn’t shock us when we first saw them. [We thought:] of course there’s sex in a movie. Isn’t there always?”

As large and family-friendly corporations like Disney become increasingly dominant within the cultural landscape, the answer seems to be: no. UK Cinema Association chief executive Phil Clapp recently told the i Newspaper that the number of 18 and 15-rated films had dropped over the past decade with studios “increasingly targeting family audiences to maximise box office returns”.

Notably, Marvel’s latest tentpole, ETERNALS, contained the franchise’s first sex scene. As Movieguide®’s data would support, ETERNALS turned one of the worst box office performances of any Marvel movie.

Movieguide® reported:

The general consensus is in for Marvel’s newest blockbuster release, ETERNALS.

In recent years, Disney Marvel’s superhero movies have been surefire box office hits, raking in some of the most significant ticket sales in cinema history.

Unfortunately, ETERNALS has turned in a low $71 million at the domestic box office, shy of what Marvel has come to expect from its tentpole movies.

Critics have pointed to the pandemic-era challenges and Marvel’s “restart” with a new cast of characters in its recent slate of superhero movies for ETERNALS’ box office struggle. However, Movieguide® notes that ETERNALS also contained some distinct moral differences from previous Marvel movies.

“It’s below Marvel’s remarkable average for launching a new series, but we are still in thin air at the top of the theatrical business,” David A. Gross of the Franchise Entertainment Research firm said. “The movie is a creative departure for Marvel. Different is good when it keeps it fresh, but it can also shake the fan base.”

ETERNALS certainly shook things up, but in a way that alienates one of the largest movie-going audiences; Christians and families. The movie included a sex scene, a lead homosexual character, and pagan mythology that all do not appear in the majority of movies fans have come to love.

Newland concludes:

The logical conclusion is simply that some viewers (many of them skewing younger) are disinclined to watch sex scenes, even the relatively few that are cropping up these days. This lack of interest in (or, judging by social media in some cases, active distaste for) sexual content may well have captured the attention of studio decision-makers…

Hollywood cinema is at a crossroads. Armed with knowledge of past mistakes, of sexism and homophobia, the best hope is that artists can respond to depicting sex and sexuality with more awareness and sensitivity than before. And while some may be asking if the sex scene is unnecessary, some must also reply: aren’t most good things?

However, the Bible depicts a very different view of sexuality and romance.

Movieguide® founder and CEO Dr. Ted Baehr outlines some of the key differences:

Dr. Baehr implores parents to ask these discerning questions about mainstream media:

How is love portrayed?

The beauty of God’s love is wonderful, yet most movies portray lust as love. Love is giving, putting others before ourselves, and always fulfilling with the joy of giving. Lust is taking, demanding more and more, without any satisfaction.

Movies and other mass media of entertainment present lust as love with one night sexual relationships, tedious ordeals, endless battles, or perverted activity. This desecration of love should be an anathema to God’s people.

Many movies suggest, or even promote, the idea of sex with a child.

The most memorable and most profitable movies are usually carefully crafted character studies which portray love in a wholesome, biblical, uplifting, or light way, such as A QUIET PLACE, THE LEGO MOVIE 2: THE SECOND PART, HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD, and PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.

When considering a love story compare its presentation with the Apostle Paul’s description of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NIV):

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

This is the kind of love you want your children to experience in a marriage – not the kind centered on lust or satisfying your base instincts. When harder times come, many marriages built on the models presented in most movies and television shows fall apart.

God’s love is not a romance story. It never fails.


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